I’m still working on my book about pain and I’m on the chapter dealing with sex as an analgesic. I know from my own experience that it certainly works for minor pain. After a long day in front of a computer screen I often wake up next morning with aching eyes or a slight headache. Sex sorts it out. So I’d be interested to hear from anyone who deliberately uses sex as a painkiller, or as a distraction from pain, or to help them get to sleep. Tell me your story by clicking on the word ‘comments’ at the top of this blog.
In the same week that we had the Leveson report on the British ‘press’ we also had the Rory Peck Awards for freelance journalists. They are the men and women who risk their lives, without even a salary, to expose the terrible things that are going on all over the world. So it’s unfortunate that everyone in ‘the press’ is being tarred with the same brush. Award winners like Alberto Arce and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova from Spain, who took the features prize for a self-funded film about rebel fighters in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, are not the same kind of ‘press’ as the men and women who sit in their cosy tabloid offices and make up stories about celebrities. Mani, the French freelance photographer and film maker, who won the news award for his report on the shelling of Homs in Syria, is not that kind of ‘press’ either. Nor is Daniel Bogado of Britain who won the Sony Impact Award for his film on the fighting between government troops and civilians in the Sudan. Nor was Rory Peck himself, a freelance cameraman who was killed in Moscow in 1993.
There are journalists, men and women, who risk their lives to make the world a happier place. They should not be damned for the mistakes of people who are not real journalists at all.
But why is it that there are so many people, not just in the ‘press’ but in the media generally, who don’t want to make the world a happier place? Why, in fact, do so many wealthy producers, directors, actors and writers do things to make the world a worse place?
The US Academy of Pediatrics has said this: ‘More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behaviour in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a “meaner and scarier” place than it is.’
Why put time, effort and money into violent films and video games that have no actual benefit to anyone – other than those who take the paycheques?
If you’re already a very rich, successful producer, director or actor, why not use that position for doing something good in the world? Why not makes films and video games that are uplifting? Why not make films and video games that make people more compassionate and more sensitive? Why not do things to make the world a happier place?
Want to live a long time? Researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute have just completed a project in which they followed 1,810 men and women aged 75 for up to 18 years. They found that exercise such as swimming, walking and gymnastics could extend life by two years, that maintaining a rich social life added 18 months, and that giving up smoking, even in middle age, made a significant difference. When they added it all together it came to six more years on planet Earth. I’m not surprised. I revealed all this in my book Help Yourself To Live Longer. In fact, I described a combination of ways in which an average person could add 10 years.
Regular readers will know I set myself a target of exercising myself to a hip:waist ratio of 0.9 by the end of October (that’s to say, divide your waist measurement by your hips measurement). Well, it’s proven harder than I thought. I’ve got it down to 0.92 but that’s still not good enough either in terms of health or aesthetics. I’ve now set a new target of 1st December. (Girls, by the way, should be aiming for 0.85 on account of their naturally slimmer waists and more curvaceous hips.)
Apart from anything else, men who get rid of their ‘love handles’ should improve their sexual performance. Anyone out there got any true life experiences to report?
My latest project is a book on pain relief. It obviously ties in with Help Yourself To Live Longer, first published in 2008 and with a new edition in 2010. But what does it have to do with happiness, a subject on which I write frequently? Quite a lot, actually.
The fact is, it’s just not easy to feel happy when you’re in pain. So dealing with pain is a sort of prequel to my book How To Be Happier, a new edition of which has just been published (Teach Yourself £10.99). Sex is a great way to make yourself happier, especially if you know all about prolonging it to increase endorphins, but it’s hard to feel sexy when your back is agony. (If you don’t know about prolonging sex you might like to read Have Great Sex or Get Intimate With Tantric Sex.)Nor is it easy to exercise, meditate or concentrate on changing the way you think.
If you’re suffering from pain but still keeping happy I’d like to hear from you. Just click on ‘comment’ at the top of this article and let us know what techniques you use. The book should be finished in January and published summer 2013.
A book called The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs And Erotic Power by Catherine Hakim reheats the well-known argument that human beings were not ‘meant’ to be monogamous, and cites plenty of examples from other species. I’ve got news for her. Human beings were not ‘meant’ to be anything. They evolved. And the point to which they’ve evolved is one of massively more sensitivity, empathy and intelligence than any other species in the known universe. This is surely the direction in which we want to continue evolving. More sensitivity, more empathy, more intelligence, more love, not less.
An argument I strongly disagree with, whatever the subject, is that human beings should behave as they were ‘meant’ to. If we followed that line we wouldn’t dive under the sea, fly in planes, wear clothes or cut our hair. When it comes to sex we’ve already subverted Nature in various cunning ways so we can enjoy lengthy, euphoric sex sessions day after day without producing offspring. But it would be a pity to use that ability to take the human race backwards into selfishness rather than forwards into enlightenment.
If two unattached people who have only just met decide they want to have sex and then go their separate ways, that’s up to them. Cheating on someone you’ve led to believe you love and will be faithful to is quite a different issue. There’s no such thing as a playfair (‘play affair’). In the end there are only painfairs.
Congratulations to the European Union for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s well-deserved. To explain why I quote the following:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
Those, of course, were the words of the late John Lennon, who was assassinated in 1980.
All of the whingeing about the EU is symptomatic of why so many people aren’t happy. The reason is this. They focus on the negative and close their minds to the positive. And the thing they focus on the most is money. But even on that they’re wrong. In the years I’ve been living in Spain I’ve seen with my own eyes the tremendous rise in living standards due to EU membership. Spain joined in 1986 when per capita GDP (a good measure of living standards) was less than 8,000 euros at 2005 prices. By 2005 it was over 23,000 euros. In other words, there was almost a threefold increase. Incomes may have fallen back recently but most people are still far better off than they would have been without the EU.
Personally, I love the EU. I don’t regard it as being ‘ruled by Brussels’ because every EU country is a member of ‘Brussels’. But, to me, the EU isn’t so much to do with either politics or economics. To me, the EU means the freedom to set up home and work almost anywhere in Europe that I choose, to be myself in the environment that suits me. And what a wonderful ‘country’ the EU is, stretching from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, and from the Atlantic to the Black Sea. Who wouldn’t want to live in a country that includes the Alps and the Pyrenees and some of the world’s greatest cities? To me, the EU is freedom. And freedom is happiness.
I’ve just heard from my publisher that my book How To Be Happier has now sold over 50,000 copies. Okay, it’s not quite in the Dale Carnegie league, but it’s a significant number of books. And the fact that it’s the most successful of my self-help titles suggests there are a lot of people who feel they’re not as happy as they’d like to be.
I’m reminded of the board game Monopoly where you get given a certain amount of money right at the start. From then on you can sit on your money or you can make an effort to increase it. In real life, happiness is much the same. You start out with a genetic inheritance that gives you a certain level. That comes for free, as it were. If you want more you have to make an effort.
Where happiness is concerned, the first step is to make the commitment that you’re going to make happiness rather than, say, money, or power, your goal. You have to make the decision that you’re actively going to do things to make yourself happier (and avoid, as far as you possibly can, the things that will make you unhappy).
As to what those things are, well, the book is full of ideas. I don’t believe anybody could work their way through it, following all the practical suggestions, without being happier. If you’re one of the 50,000 I’d love to hear from you how you got on. Just click on ‘comments’ at the top of the blog.
A team led by Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, has been looking at data on 12,785 Americans over a 14 year period, relating body mass index (BMI) and waist to hip ratio (WHR) to mortality. To general astonishment they found the highest mortality among those with normal BMI but with a belly almost as wide as, or wider than, their hips. The mortality rate for this group of people with ‘love handles’ was higher even than for those who were actually obese.
I’ve been warning about ‘love handles’ for some time. I call them ‘anti-love handles’ because, as I explained in my book Have Great Sex, they convert a man’s testosterone to oestrogen. If you’re a man and find your sexual performance is waning then take a look at your waistline.
The healthy WHR for women was said to be 0.85 or less, and for men 0.90 or less. I took out a tape measure and was astonished to discover my WHR was 0.94, although I weigh 72kg and stand about 1.8 metres. So I’m exactly the kind of man they’re talking about. I need to get some more muscle onto my buttocks (and the rest of me), and less fat on my waist.
Regular readers will know I abandoned my high intensity training (HIT) for the summer when temperatures were regularly in the thirties out here in Spain. But I continued swimming and took up windsurfing. Not enough. (There’s an awful lot of just standing when you’re windsurfing.)
I’m setting a target of getting that ratio down to below 0.9 by the end of October. I’ll let you know how I get on. If you’d like to join me, click on ‘comments’ at the top of this blog.
Given the huge interest in 50 Shades Of Grey I’ve decided to write my own guide to a little light BDSM. I’m intending to call it 50 Shades Of Titillation. There won’t be anything in it that’s either painful or humiliating but I guarantee it will provide you with plenty more ideas than you could ever learn from the novel. If it doesn’t have you setting the alarm an hour early or rushing home from work then nothing will. Books take a fair time to write, edit and publish, even online, so what I’m going to do is put draft chunks on my website as I go along. When the book is completely finished I’ll be making it available as an ebook. If you can’t wait, keep an eye out by clicking on the handcuffs on the left-hand side of this page – the first chunk will be posted shortly. (Keep in mind that these will just be rough drafts.)
Dr Michael Mosley presented another BBC Horizon on Monday night (Eat, Fast And Live Longer), this time demonstrating the health benefits of calorie restriction (CR). It works a bit like wealth. When you have money you don’t darn socks, you just buy new ones. When times are hard you darn socks. Fasting forces the body to switch from cell replacement mode to cell repair mode and, by doing so, protects against some of the big modern killers such as heart disease and certain cancers. It also lowers the risk of diabetes.
There are various ways of tackling fasting. One is to follow a daily regime in which you eat 0.75 calories per hour for each kilo of your healthy target weight. So if your healthy target weight is 50 kg you should eat 50 x 0.75 x 24 calories a day. That comes to just 900 calories, which is incredibly harsh.
Dr Mosley’s preferred method is to eat normally five days a week but consume only 600 calories (500 for women) on two days. Also very tough.
In fact, this was the same Michael Mosley who recently made a Horizon programme advocating high-intensity training (HIT). Michael assured us he was so impressed by the health benefits of HIT that he would be continuing HIT for ever. Well, that didn’t last long. And I don’t think his fasting will, either.
I am a vegan and my calorie intake is already fairly low. I hesitate to go much lower. In any event, as I explained in my book Help Yourself To Live Longer, protein restriction may be more important than calorie restriction.
My personal view is that it wouldn’t be possible for me to lead the sort of life I enjoy while fasting. I like plenty of physical activity (which doesn’t entitle you to more calories under CR).
If you’d like to know other ways of increasing your chance of living a long and healthy life you can buy Help Yourself To Live Longer from Amazon and all the usual outlets.
The Olympics have provided us with a fascinating lesson in happiness. We’ve seen athletes thrilled to win bronze medals and we’ve seen athletes devastated at winning ‘only’ silver.
The contrast between swimmer Rebecca Adlington and rowers Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase could not have been greater. Rebecca came third in the 800 metre freestyle and was clearly delighted.
By contrast Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase in the Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls were distraught at coming second. Spectators watched in amazement as the two men apologized for, as they saw it, letting everyone down. Even the BBC interviewer, confronted by the misery of the two men, was fighting to hold back tears.
Here’s what Zac Purchase had to say: ‘When you put everything in and you lose, there is no hiding place. We’ll spend days, weeks, months, the rest of our lives, trying to work out if we could have done more.’
This is a recipe for depression. There are nearly seven billion people on the planet and only one can take individual gold in any given event. Don’t bet your happiness against odds like that.
For quite a few years now, newspapers and magazines have been asking celebrities to describe either a perfect day/weekend or a typical day/weekend. I must have read hundreds of them and the curious thing is that sex is seldom mentioned. So I’m now a fan of the designer Philippe Starck who, in the Sunday Times ‘life in the day slot’, reveals that he has sex with his wife Jasmine first thing in the morning and again after his siesta.
Given the work schedule he describes I’m not sure how the 63 year-old Starck finds the time but it’s an admirable target. Actually, I already was a fan as I have a Philippe Starck tap and a Philippe Starck shower head.
Now I have two more reasons to feel well-inclined to Mr Starck. He thinks daily sex is ‘obligatory’ – he says it ‘keeps the creative machine in working order’. That’s one. The other is that he’s ‘bold’ enough to say so. Why are so many people afraid to admit they have sex?
It’s the same with Desert Island Discs. Asked if there’s anything they’d miss alone on a desert island, few castaways ever mention sex with another person. A notable exception recently was the songwriter and performer Tim Minchin who, as his luxury, asked if he could have a sex doll.
Personally, I’d hate to be on a desert island all alone. But if I could be marooned together with my partner Smithy I think I could manage pretty well.
What would be your perfect day or weekend? Click on ‘comments’ at the top of this feature and share your thoughts with us.